The New Year brings arctic air, lake effect snow

Posted at 9:36 AM, Jan 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-02 09:52:29-05

WEST MICHIGAN —  We've seen a mix of patterns over the last several weeks.  We'd go into the deep freeze for several days, then you'd turn around and all the snow would melt.


Arctic air is making its way further south, and this arctic blast will be felt by the end of the week.  We won't quite go below zero, but our afternoon highs will struggle to get out of the teens.


We're still protected by the relatively warm lake.  This offers positives and negatives, depending on what side of the fence you're on.  It keeps us slightly warmer than we normally would be with the milder water, but that same milder water can really help crank up the lake effect snow machine.


Lake effect snow needs several variables to help create snowfall, but one of the most key components is the temperature difference between the water surface and the air above it.

This is a map of temperatures at 850 mb, which is approximately 5,000 feet above the surface.  The difference in the water temperature and the temperature at this height needs to be about 13 degrees colder (in Celcius.)  The water temperature is 45 degrees, which equates to about 7 degrees Celcius.  Note the numbers above for Wednesday morning...they're about 20 degrees colder.  This is the setup that we'll enjoy just about all week long.


Starting Wednesday, lake effect snow will be possible.

As winds pick up and temps fall into the teens in the afternoon, we'll deal with blowing snow and wind chills below zero as well.  We'll continue to update you with the specifics as the event nears, but prepare for a cold next several days with chances of snow through the weekend.